New child abuse prevention guide focuses on very young

Joette Katz, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families reads to children (WTNH / Kevin Pflaumer)

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) –  April is Child Abuse Prevention month. This morning the Commissioner of Children and Families released new agency guidelines designed to help spot child abuse in the youngest and most vulnerable of victims.

Commissioner Joette Katz made the announcement at a Hartford day care – the largest in the state. She read a book titled “When I feel Good About Myself” to a room full of 4 year-olds. The message of the book is to feel good about yourself to tell a grown up if someone is hurting you. The message Commissioner Katz was there to deliver to everyone else was that grown ups need to pay more attention, especially to the very young.

“The key point is that work with very young children can be especially challenging,” said Katz. “Since they’ve not yet developed the skills to tell us what is happening to them, and what they are feeling and what they need.”

DCF just released a new guide to improving child assessments. In other words, new ways DCF workers should be looking at children to determine if they are being abused, even if they’re too young to talk.

“Understanding what you’re observing by way of body language and the relationship between the child and the caregiver that really helps to inform the assessment that we do,” explained DCF Administrator Kristina Stevens.

Across the nation every year, around 200,000 children 2 years old and younger come into contact with the child welfare system. Abuse at that age is not just terrible while it’s happening, but it can affect that child for the rest of his or her life. April is child abuse prevention month, and it is a reminder to everyone to speak up if abuse is happening.

“That because of events like this, dozens of kids have raised their hands to say I need help is, I think, the most powerful statement that can be made,” said Connecticut State Child Advocate Sarah Eagan.

Commissioner Katz was asked what affect state budget cuts might have on effort to stop child abuse. Her response was that there is a perfect world, and a good world. We don’t live in the perfect world, she said, but the good one.

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